Yoga for All: Advocating for the Accessibility of Health and Wellness through Yoga and Mindfulness

Widespread research has found that the prevalence of stress and stress-related diseases are most commonly found in underserved and marginalized communities that often lack the equitable resources to health and wellness. This includes lower life expectancies, cancer-clusters, as well as increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, as well as psychological disorders and substance use disorders.

Why is Yoga Valuable to Health and Wellness?

It is valuable for all parts of the community to have access to yoga, particularly in populations with limited resources, and whom experience significantly more stress. Yoga can ease some of the symptoms associated with stress, anxiety, and pain through its combination of breath, movement, and mindfulness. Along with improving cardiovascular health and muscular strength, yoga can also strengthen mental focus. Due to the combination of mindfulness, meditation, and mental focus, many whom practice yoga regularly also become accustomed to living more presently and with intention in their everyday lives.

Yoga may also help calm down the effects of stress on the nervous system. As chronic stress may cause the nervous system to experience uncontrollable effects such as irregular breathing patterns, rapid heart rate, and tensed muscles, yoga provides a practice of controlling the breath, breathing slower and deeper, which can then slow down the heart rate, and release tension in the muscles. Thus, yoga can serve as a great resource for those dealing with average to significant amounts of stress in their daily lives.

Yoga in Clinical Settings

Clinical settings can be great places to host regular yoga classes for its patients. As those who are hospitalized or in a recovery treatment likely have experienced a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, yoga teaches them to relax their nervous system through breathing and movement exercises. For many individuals in these facilities, offering yoga onsite can provide patients with an opportunity to try out and experience a yoga practice that they may not otherwise have access to. A trauma-informed approach to teaching in this setting is needed, allowing the class to be approachable, modifiable, non-esoteric, encouraging, and careful of potential triggers.

All-Bodies Yoga

All-bodies yoga is a style of yoga taught with immense awareness of anatomy and modification techniques for most poses, in order to make a class physically accessible for any body. Usually taught in a slower pace, with more time to explain how to get into each pose, this class has fewer transitions from standing to floor poses. Props such as chairs, blocks, straps, bolsters and blankets are usually utilized in making the class modifiable, as well as offering other pose variations and options so that students can chose what feels right in their own body.

Yoga can often be perceived of having an elitist identity that misrepresents the accessibility and modifiability of the activity. Because of this misrepresentation, yoga can often come off as intimidating or not something that would work for any body type or physical ability. As more awareness of all the great benefits to health and wellness become known as well as its accessibility, yoga is likely to become more utilized in settings beyond the yoga studio.

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